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China / Across America

Giving thanks around the world for turkey and all sorts of shopping

(China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-11-26 13:24

This festive month has got me thinking how cultures are converging in East and West.

Thursday is Thanksgiving, a traditional American holiday if ever there were one.

But Turkey Day is celebrated in China, too. A story in China Daily on Tuesday described how Thanksgiving has grown in popularity, and listed seven restaurants in Beijing, two in Shanghai and two in Hong Kong with turkey dishes on the menu.

"Over the years, Thanksgiving has gained more attention in China," said Hubert Hu, chef at the Opposite House Hotel in Beijing, "especially in an international city such as Beijing. More and more of the local population acknowledge it, and kids in private and international schools are aware of this tradition."

Hu is known to make a pretty mean stuffing, with pecans, onion and sage.

The day after Thanksgiving – the US retail shopping extravaganza known as Black Friday – is also making inroads in China.

Black Friday has traditionally been a "brick-and-mortar "shopping day, when bargain-hunters home from work and school get in their cars or hop on buses and trains to start shopping for Christmas and other holidays.

In the United States, this day is known for people lining up early in the morning at stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy to get items such as discounted flat-screen TVs, smartphones and computers.

Sometimes that consumer desire results in mad rushes, with people getting injured or even killed if they're unfortunate enough to end up at the bottom of a scrum when the doors fly open.

And if the crowds don't get you, the malware could.

Cyber security company iSight Partner has warned of a "highly sophisticated criminal malware framework" that has been used to target POS systems at US-based retailers.

The company noted that ModPOS, short for modular point-of-sale system, can go undetected by numerous types of cybersecurity defenses.

"We know that US retailers have been targeted and believe it is very likely that criminal actors are seeking to compromise additional victims beyond those identified. We observed a small element of the ModPOS framework as far back as 2012, with known activity in late 2013 and active targeting of US retailers through 2014," the firm said.

In the past few years, some stores have said tradition be damned and taken to opening on Thanksgiving evening, sparking anger among employees along with the dreaded social media backlash.

The Chinese prefer to do more of their shopping online though, and now they are able to access some top American retailers such as Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Neiman-Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, through Borderfree and Alipay's ePass.

It's not that the US doesn't take part in the online outpouring. That's what Cyber Monday is for, the day when people are technically back at work but develop an itchy mouse finger that translates into mega-clicks of online purchases. In Walmart's case, it's Cyber Sunday evening.

"It can be exhausting for working parents and millennials to stay up past midnight to shop online, only to wake up early the next day to get ready for work," Fernando Madeira, president and CEO of Walmart.com, said in a release on Monday. "By starting ‘Cyber Monday' hours earlier on Sunday evening (8 pm) and quadrupling the number of Cyber Monday specials, we're making it easier for customers to get ahead of the busiest online shopping day of the year and save on the best gifts."

China had its version of Cyber Monday a couple of weeks ago --11.11 or Singles Day -- an online effusion of buying pumped up by e-commerce giant Alibaba that racked up $14.3 billion in sales this year.

Amazon China, which introduced China to the excesses of Black Friday last year, said this year's event will run until Dec 5 and feature millions of items from 40 countries.

Doug Gurr, Amazon China president, said cross-border e-commerce helps "Chinese customers find the most authentic brands around the world".

"Only Amazon can bring all of its products to Chinese customers," he said, adding that the company runs 14 online platforms worldwide.

Some analysts have suggested that 11.11 has drained the Chinese consumer's wallet.

But Wang Xiaoxing of Internet consultancy Analysys International said Chinese buyers still have a thirst for overseas shopping.

"Cross-border shopping is all about buying things that cannot be easily purchased in China," he said. "Amazon has abundant global suppliers, who can surpass all of China's e-commerce players. It may never grow to be as big as Alibaba or JD.com, but it has chosen the most rapidly growing market in China's e-commerce sector."

Research by PayPal, a US online payments company, and Ipsos, a market researcher in France, said that about 35 percent of Chinese online shoppers have made cross-border transactions this year.

Shoppers from China also are the most mobile savvy. Almost 35 percent of them made purchases via mobile devices in the past year, compared with a global average of 16 percent.

Many may look at the shopping frenzy and holiday excess as garish examples of materialism and gluttony. But such traditional exercises can bring a sense of community, comfort and joy to a world that has seen far too much violence and sadness lately.

Contact the writer at williamhennelly@chinadailyusa.com

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